In today’s connected world, protecting one’s privacy and data is an important issue. And this is also the reason for the success of Hey!blau Labs. Because since the end of 2012, the company has been offering products that make sure promoting companies and their customers are on the safe side.
Thomas Mühlhoff definitely has an instinct for the spirit of time. The company founder of Hey!blau Labs spent two years working on the project before the camblock was launched onto the market in December 2012. The special sticker for the webcam lens was Mühlhoff’s reaction to the fact that he had increasingly observed how Internet users were covering over the camera of their smartphones, tablets and laptops with plasters or sticky tape to protect them against unauthorised access. The trained dental technician and graduate musician was obsessed with the thought that there must be a more visually attractive option that didn’t leave a trace when removed, until he ultimately found the ideal solution, namely a reusable, PVC and adhesivefree sticker that nevertheless sticks to smooth and slightly roughened surfaces. Mühlhoff also quickly found a prominent buyer for his invention – the German Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youths (BMFSFJ): Since January 2013 the Ministry has been using the camblock to enhance its explanation package for the protection of children on the Internet. However, at the beginning of 2013 one couldn’t possibly have imagined how explosive the themes espionage and hacker attacks were going to be. Because it wasn’t until six months later when the global monitoring and espionage activities of the US secret service, the NSA, were made public that the protection of data and privacy suddenly became a topic of public discussion more than ever before.
Mühlhoff was aware from the very start that his webcam cover offers an ideal advertising surface: They are in the constant view of the users, are effective, are totally good for mailing campaigns because they weigh next to nothing and they also emphasise the sensitivity of the promoting company regarding how they handle their customers’ data.
All shapes are possible
Kindled by the current debates surrounding the revelations by Edward Snowden, the product went down very well on the promotional products market. In the meantime, the camblock has been realised in virtually every shape. “We have produced them as speech bubbles, hearts, smilies, cameras, moustaches, small monsters and stars. Whatever the customer wants, basically everything is possible – even as lightbulbs with a 3D effect thanks to the new doming customising technique offered,” explained Mühlhoff. Together with his colleague, Max Schweder, Mühlhoff advises the customers, whilst the graphic designer, Bruno Bauch, takes care of the desired design, also that of the advertising cards supplied. “The intended purpose is what determines our recommendations for the individualisation of the respective camblock. For example, for a notebook it is important that the webcam cover is thin so that the user can close the device. A doming wouldn’t be advisable here,” stated Schweder. Hey!blau Labs can also change the size of the camblock sticker to suit the corresponding terminal. Hence, most of the customers opt for two to three sizes or shapes that are packed inside a poly bag together with the inlay card. Schweder: “This enables them to be used for several different devices. After all the camera lens of a smartphones is smaller than that of a laptop. The sticker should fit perfectly.”
The Non-profit Making Workshops Cologne (GWK) makes sure that this is the case. Mühlhoff reported that coming across the GWK as a production site was actually a coincidence: “The close contact has paid off. It is a great advantage for us that every work step is carried out in Cologne: We can manufacture the products on-site within the shortest space of time at a reasonable price and individually for the customer. The access to the value chain is thus extremely high.” The short routes for the GWK have also already provided synergy effects. In this way, in addition to domings Hey!blau Labs also offers a special varnish finish as a customisation of the webcam cover that was jointly developed together with the GWK. But even if everything began with the camblock, in the meantime the special stickers are not the only item produced by the GWK that Hey!blau Labs offers on the promotional products sector. The company that sees itself as a creative laboratory places high importance on the theme safety, and as such Mühlhoff landed a further coup in protecting devices against hackers in the form of the Kryptonizer. The patented give-away increases the safety of passwords, by helping encode them. The code is supplied on an individually designable key pendant made of PVC or organic plastic and delivered inside a poly bag together with an inlay card on request. “Each Kryptonizer is equipped with an individual translation code. For example, the word ‘Administrator’ that is frequently used is translated into a different Krypto password with each Kryptonizer,” explained Mühlhoff. “The user regularly implements the give-away when entering passwords and always carries it around with him on his bunch of keys. That is without doubt the best advertising,” stated the company founder, who has also observed a further effect at trade shows: “Both the Kryptonizer and the camblock are very communicative items. They make getting into a dialogue about the themes passwords and security very easy – in other words they are real icebreakers.” Ice-breakers that also sometimes make the employees of GWK break out into a sweat. Because the orders placed by Hey!blau Labs have continually increased. Orders are also placed from abroad, i.e. from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, from Dubai or Australia. On average, around 4,000 products per working day are manufactured today; this year the aim is to crack the million mark for the first time.
The task of the employees is primarily picking and packing the products. “For us it is important that the work of our employees involves them using their hands. This trains their fine motor skills and their stamina while at the same time motivating them,” commented Gabriele Palm, who is responsible for the areas Office and Picking & Packing at GWK. For example, the plastic cards for the Kryptonizers are broken out of the punched cut-out individually, imprinted with the code either horizontally or vertically in line with the customer’s requirements, attached to the inlay card using two dots of adhesive, stowed inside the high-gloss poly bag (or optionally in eco-friendly bags) and prepared for dispatch. Whilst those Kryptonizer cards that were not produced by Hey!blau Labs, (still without a code) are supplied by an external company, the camblock stickers are completely an in-house production. For this purpose, Mühlhoff has made its own production machines available to GWK. In this way, the quality of the customer-specific shape of the sticker can be checked directly on-site.
Small minimum order volumes
The cooperation with GWK enables a flexible and fast order processing: The customers receive their individually designed camblock stickers within twelve working days. Here the minimum order quantity is 250 pieces. Kryptonizers are already available for orders of 100 pieces with a delivery time of five weeks. Even if the customer usually supplies the final print data for the Kryptonizer, the graphic designer Jonas Holland-Moritz can develop individual design proposals on the plastic cards and inlay cards on request. “It has proved its worth having one graphic designer alone taking care of camblocks and another one being responsible for the Kryptonizers. The graphic designers know the respective products and materials inside out and come up with great ideas,” said Mühlhoff.
Incidentally, Hey!blau Labs’ products are also available in the retail sector. However, for Mühlhoff the promotional products segment has a special appeal: “I find it exciting again and again to see how a company presents itself using our products. And furthermore: What could be better than someone giving you money so that they can give away your products? I totally support the use of our items, because they protect devices against hacker attacks and also make the people more sensitive for this topic.” Sensitising is an important keyword – also for the next project that is currently in the pipeline at the creative laboratory. Mühlhoff doesn’t want to reveal what this exactly entails. But one thing is sure: It is once again bound to be a theme that is currently making feelings run high.
// Rebecca Klug